Renfe Cercanías train

Spain’s free train pass pushes use of public transport to pre-corona levels

A Renfe Cercanías train2016, Draceane / Wikimedia Commons

Renfe has issued 2 million free train passes since the introduction of the tickets in Spain towards the end of August. According to the operator, the initiative has helped restore restore the overall passenger numbers to levels last seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vast majority of customers – more than 1.4 million – has opted for a free pass for the commuter rail systems of Spain’s major metropolitan areas called Cercanías, or Rodalies in the Catalunya region.

Available in cities such as Madrid, Málaga, Sevilla and Valencia, the free ticket for Cercanías trains has increased travel by 34.6 percent compared to the same period last year, which has helped push total passenger numbers to 95 percent of pre-corona levels. The remaining nearly 600,000 subscriptions were for Medium Distance routes.

The free pass for certain train is one of the measures the Spanish government is taking in face of rising inflation and the rising cost of living, similar to Germany’s 9-euro ticket of last summer, which will have a successor. The Spanish ticket campaign began in September and will run all the way through December of this year.

Travellers using Renfe’s Avant and high-speed AVE services are not eligible for a free pass. However, if their travel time is less than 100 minutes, they receive a 50-percent discount. This, too, has resulted in an uptick of users, with around 55,000 passes issued to date. They are particularly popular on the Madrid-Segovia-Valladolid line, which accounts for about a quarter of all tickets used. Other lines that have been in demand are Madrid-Ciudad Real-Puertollano and Madrid-Toledo.

The Spanish government estimates that the initiative to issue free rail passes for use until the end of this year will result in 75 million trips. In theory – if all these journeys via rail are a substitute for trips by car – this will save 118 million litres of petrol and 360,576 tons of CO2 emissions.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn

Chief Editor,

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